Cutting the flab

Updated: 2011-08-09 07:46

(China Daily)

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All citizens were told to get more exercise on Monday, which was designated a nationwide fitness day.

The General Administration of Sport made public its ninth set of calisthenics with radio music as a recommended workout for the whole country.

The exercises are easy and simple to learn for people of all ages and don't require a great deal of space or time. They can be done anytime, and will relieve stress and gently stretch the body.

The first set of exercises was introduced in 1951 when the average life expectancy in China was only 35 years. It was designed to encourage the whole nation to improve its health. The motto at that time was "everyone exercises every day and works for the motherland for 50 years".

The nation's average life expectancy is now 72 years. But lifestyle changes are taking a heavy toll on people. Food shortage is no longer a problem, and the diet of Chinese people has changed dramatically from mainly rice and vegetables to include more meat, milk and sweets. It is people's expanding waistlines that are now posing a public health threat.

China's rapidly increased obesity, 6-10 million more each year, should alarm health officials.

The Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention predicts that without resolute measures and effective policies the proportion of people of normal weight in the country's population will drop from 70 percent to 33 percent in just one or two decades, meaning there would be a large increase in obesity-related diseases and chronic diseases.

A lack of exercise accounts for the rising rates of teen obesity. Before 2000 less than 1 percent of the country's students were of a portly figure. Now 20 percent of them are obese and overweight.

A nationwide fitness program was launched in 1995 that aimed to facilitate local residents' access to physical exercise. Governments at various levels in the country were urged to make sports facilities more accessible for residents and the facilities are not allowed to be used for other purposes by any individual or organization. However, loosely executed, the program failed to trigger people's desire to exercise.

More vigorous efforts are needed to help all the people in the country, especially the young, engage in adequate regular physical activity and reduce sedentary behavior. These steps can help promote good health.

Addressing obesity isn't rocket science. It's usually caused by a diet high in fat, sugar and salt, and a lack of exercise.

So the call for the country to keep moving is about our quality of life and a healthy lifestyle.

(China Daily 08/09/2011 page8)